One of the things I recognize about myself is that I have an easy time presenting God’s truth and a hard time presenting God’s grace. I get frustrated easily and angry. Of course, God’s truth and God’s grace are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. So, in essence, I still don’t fully understand either.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1)
I still remember hearing a gentleman at a political meeting tell the gathered group that he had thought of the idea he was currently sharing while “not paying attention at church.” As he was speaking, because of varied distracted conversations between people not listening to him, this man ended up repeating that statement three times. I found that significant.
“Why,” I asked to myself, “would this man even bother going to church if he wasn’t even going to try to pay attention?”
I experience joy and sorrow at the behest of a group text.
After returning from a life-changing mission trip, our team members established a group text to communicate in the days after, sharing verses of scripture and uplifting words, and coordinating post-trip video interviews and fellowship. The watchword was unity – the idea of Christian unity was, and is, sacred. Awe inspiring.
It wasn’t the group text as its own object – that was merely a vessel – but instead the people behind it and their shocking dedication to love and compassion that has changed the entire way I look at the world. I feel as though, through the window of that thread, the mission before it, and the fellowship resulting from it, I’ve witnessed a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven.
But I also have experienced a stark smack back to reality from the Creator of the universe, as He reminded me the reason everyone talks about how much they hate group texts. I witnessed how the incessant drilling of pebbles at that proverbial window can cause hairline fractures in the glass. This is not the way it was intended.
The conversation turns from an Ephesians 4:29-fest of building up one another in the need of the moment to a 2 Timothy 2:16 waste of time that kept everyone’s phones buzzing over the span of four hours. I receive, in the midst of a thoughtless cavalcade, the channeled voice of the Holy Spirit in four capitalized letters.
And suddenly I begin to examine myself once again and the weekend’s sermon makes it’s point known.
Because of a turn of circumstances, I ended up attending service at my church three times over the course of the weekend. I got the opportunity to listen to our pastor preach his message more than once, and each time I continued to take notes on the message with the intent to gain wisdom from it.
This week, we discussed Romans 12:2.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In his message, our pastor discussed how the word for the idea of “conforming to the pattern” is the singular Greek word suschematizo, from which comes the English word schematic. Likewise, the word transformed is from the same root that we get the word metamorphosis - a fundamental, core change of existence. With this in mind, we could say that Romans 12:2 tells us “not to fashion ourselves according to the flawed blueprint the world has presented us, but instead allow ourselves to be fundamentally changed by the active and working God, so that we can start to understand the bigger picture.”
But of course, if God gives me a hammer, I’m more likely to first hit someone with it than use it to help build up a spiritual house of living stones (1 Peter 2:5).
I read something posted on Facebook (which, as you’ll see, produces a special irony) that read something like, “what would be the hardest thing to explain to someone from the 1950’s who inexplicably showed up today?” The humorous answer? “I have a device in my pocket that can access all collected human knowledge, and I use it to look up pictures of cats and argue with strangers.”
God gives me a phone with the capability of group text, and I can’t seem to contribute in a way that matches his intention. I am thankful for my sister who was bold enough to speak truth with the word “stop.” The world says group texts are a waste of time. Somehow, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, it became a font of blessing. Why would I allow myself to be conformed to the way the world says things work?
I know maybe it’s a minor thing, blowing up phones with a group text, but after experiencing the kind of unity that can only be produced by the Holy Spirit, I’m wary of the “root of bitterness” the author of Hebrews talks about in 12:15. I’m stoked to continue forward using the tools and resources God has provided in His mercy for His intentions, in order to further the kingdom of God. Brothers and sisters, let’s proceed!
“I honestly just don’t get it Matthew,” my English teacher sighed. She settled further into
her chair and took in my complete lack of concern for this intervention. “You are such a talented
student and I love hearing how you engage in class. I mean it. I love the way you get involved
and ask questions.”
“Here it comes,” I thought to myself. “They all say it.”
“What is it going to take to make you successful in this class?”
There is a lot of hate in this world. There is a lot of hate in America, even from within the Christian Church. Sometimes that ‘even’ becomes ‘especially’. Mahatma Gandhi famously said “I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”
I say this because I want to make the intent of this (what I hope to be) series clear. I am not saying “I love these people like Jesus does, and you don’t, and you should, and I’m somehow better than you.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The subject of each of these posts, be they specific or vague, were chosen because they are an individual that I have a hard time loving, where I know I should.
It was Saturday night that I went over to a friend’s house to hang out. This was still in the shaky aftermath of CPAC and I still hadn’t completely acclimated to “normal society” – the ripples of the Conservative Political Action Conference were still rocking the boat.
Watching John Stewart do a debrief on the conference I had been at a week earlier was surreal for me. As much as we like to claim that he’s simply making fun, and that it’s all in good humor, I have to wonder. I see people I met at the conference – imperfect, but good, caring people – who are included in a montage talking about the ridiculousness of the event. I see the earnest concern for America and the split feelings of ambition and hopelessness being glazed over in favor of gimmicky, flaccid political posturing.
We could talk about our fellow human beings struggling to make the world a better place, somehow, like the rest of us… or we could mock them relentlessly because it gets us viewers and money.
This is not only from comedic commentary shows, but those claiming to be real journalists. Sure, it’s done in humor, but is it done in love? This question seems to make everyone uncomfortable… myself included. But by saying it I’m not trying to place myself above anyone else. Why does no one get that? I’m speaking firstly to myself. Am I required to be perfect to speak of what Jesus has called us to? Am I required to be without sin to even speak of the teachings of the one who is, Jesus Christ?
Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. Would we be the ones to say “I know that you saved our battered and bleeding friend from death on the side of the road, but you’re a Samaritan and someone we’ve decided to hate, so we’re going to beat you bloody throw you into the dirt, just like those robbers did to our friend.”
It’s a vicious cycle! It’s the “us vs. them” that makes me so uncomfortable when spending time in the political arena. It becomes less about making a difference in the country and more about taking turns hitting someone with a cane on the floor of congress.
I saw a comment on a video of one of a commentator I like whose tagline includes the words “love and peace.” The person leaving the comment called her delusional and said that eventually she’ll learn that the only real change comes from war and bloodshed.
What!? I’m sorry, but if you want war and you want bloodshed, that’s unhealthy and wrong. You want hate? How wicked can we be? There’s a fine line between being aware and prepared for the trouble that’s coming your way and itching for a fight.
If I hear “Molon Labe” one more time I might not be able to contain myself. Come and take it? Come and take my weapons, it implies, so I can gun you down. Let’s fight back against the man, you say, I’ll shoot ‘em up!
Really? You’re inviting that on yourself? You’re inviting that on all of us, you think “Molon Labe” is a good thing?
I’m an ignorant person, I’ll be the very first to admit that. I understand very little. I fully relate to Paul when he said in his first letter to the church in Corinth, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
I can say with certainty very little aside from that. I know that God became man in Jesus, I know that Jesus was sent to serve as both teacher and perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind, I know that he fulfilled God’s divine plan of reconciliation between God and man, and I know that he was raised from the dead in the ultimate act of victory over the shackles of death, I know that he offers the same victory for us through him, and I know that he did all of this out of an infinite love for all of us.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loves everyone.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Do we take this literally? Not always. God’s love doesn’t begin once we believe in Jesus. It’s eternal, before and after. I know not everyone claims to follow Jesus. I know that many who claim to follow Jesus actually don’t. I know we get angry when we feel challenged to meet his standard, and I understand, because it’s not possible through our own works.
I am not judging or condemning you, because to do so would require me to judge and condemn myself – standing on my own I would be found guilty. I have been redeemed solely by Jesus Christ in me. He has lifted my sentence, but he has not removed my crimes.
The intention of this series, Lord willing and give me endurance, is to simply look at the type of people Jesus loves.
After a long, tormented, and (in some ways) epic saga of the Cover Oregon roll-out, what was to be the frontier’s shimmering example of a healthcare exchange for the rest of the nation has finally confessed that the website will not be ready for the enrollment deadline – the end of March.